If your dog experiences a torn CCL ligament in their knee, the most probable action for addressing the injury involves knee surgery. In the following article, our veterinarians in Lincoln discuss dog knee injuries and how surgery treats them.
Knee Injuries in Dogs
Ensuring your dog maintains an active lifestyle hinges on the well-being of their knees. Optimal joint health is crucial for their overall vitality. While your veterinarian can suggest top-notch dog foods and supplements to support joint health, it's important to note that cruciate injuries, also known as ACL injuries, may still occur, leading to significant discomfort for your canine companion.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament in Dogs
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), also known as the ACL or cruciate, is one of the two ligaments in a dog's leg that links the shin bone to the thigh bone, facilitating proper and pain-free knee function.
Pain in the knee resulting from a torn cruciate can manifest suddenly during physical activity, but it is just as likely to progress gradually over time. Should your dog sustain an injury to their cruciate ligament and persist in activities such as running, jumping, and playing, the injury may rapidly escalate in severity.
Causes of Knee Injuries
If your dog is dealing with a torn cruciate, the source of pain stems from the instability in the knee, attributed to a phenomenon known as 'tibial thrust.'
Tibial thrust manifests as a sliding motion resulting from weight transfer up the dog's shin bone (tibia) and across the knee. This process induces the shinbone to propel forward relative to the dog's thigh bone (femur). The forward-thrusting movement occurs due to the sloped nature of the top of the tibia, and the compromised cruciate in the dog cannot impede this undesired motion.
Signs of a Dog Knee Injury
If your dog is grappling with a cruciate injury and enduring knee discomfort, their ability to engage in normal walking or running activities may be compromised. Additionally, you may observe accompanying symptoms such as:
- Difficulties rising off of the floor (particularly after rest, following exercise)
- Pronounced limping in their hind legs
- Stiffness following exercise
Surgical Treatment for a Torn Ligament
Cruciate injuries seldom resolve on their own and typically require intervention. If your dog displays indications of a torn cruciate, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Early diagnosis ensures that treatment can commence promptly, preventing the escalation of symptoms. It is noteworthy that dogs with a unilateral torn cruciate often have a propensity to injure the contralateral knee.
Once a torn cruciate is confirmed in your dog, your veterinarian will likely recommend one of three knee surgeries to restore normal mobility for your canine companion. It is essential to be aware that not all veterinarians are proficient in performing these surgeries. Your dog may be referred to a specialized veterinary surgeon for the necessary treatment in certain instances.
ELSS / ECLS - Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization
Extracapsular Lateral Suture Stabilization is frequently employed for dogs weighing under 50 pounds to address issues related to the prevention of tibial thrust. This surgical intervention involves strategically placing a suture to impede the forward movement of the tibia, thereby stabilizing the dog's knee. The tension the suture applies tightens the joint, preventing any undesirable front-to-back sliding of the tibia.
This technique allows the cruciate to undergo a healing process, allowing the muscles surrounding the knee to recover strength. ELSS surgery is known for its efficiency, being a relatively swift and straightforward procedure, and it boasts a commendable success rate, particularly in small to medium-sized dogs
TPLO - Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy
TPLO surgery is a reliable treatment for a torn cruciate and aims to reduce tibial thrust without relying on the dog's cruciate. This treatment involves making a complete cut through the top of the tibia (the tibial plateau), and then rotating the tibial plateau to change its angle. Finally, a metal plate is added to stabilize the cut bone as it heals. Your dog's leg will gradually heal and strengthen over several months following TPLO surgery.
TTA - Tibial Tuberosity Advancement
TTA is similar to TPLO and involves surgically separating the front part of the tibia from the rest of the bone, then adding a spacer between the two sections to move the front section up and forward. This surgery prevents much of the tibia thrust movement from occurring.
As with TPLO surgery, a bone plate will be attached to hold the front section of the tibia in its correct position until the bone has had sufficient time to heal. Dogs with a steep tibial plateau (angle of the top section of the tibia) tend to be excellent candidates for TTA surgery.
Choosing a Surgery
After thoroughly examining your dog's knee movement and geometry, your vet will consider your dog's age, weight, size, and lifestyle, and then recommend the best treatment in your dog's case.
Dog Recovery Time From Knee Surgery
Recovering fully from knee surgery is indeed a gradual journey. Although some dogs may be able to walk within 24 hours post-surgery, achieving complete recovery and a return to regular activities typically spans a timeframe of 12 to 16 weeks, if not longer. It is crucial to diligently adhere to your veterinarian's post-operative guidelines to facilitate your dog's return to normalcy. Prematurely introducing activities like running and jumping before the knee has fully healed poses the risk of potential re-injury and should be avoided.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.